CHICAGO – Suffering its first home loss since November 15, 2008, the No. 1 ranked Saint Xavier University football team fell to No. 10 University of Saint Francis (Ind.), 25-13, in its Homecoming game and Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League opener Saturday night at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. Two first-quarter interceptions and a turnover on downs ended three first-half drives by the SXU offense and helped USF build a 19-0 lead late in the second quarter. Junior running back Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) got the Cougars (4-1 overall/0-1 MSFA) on the board with 51 seconds left in the first half on an 18-yard touchdown run that capped an 80-yard drive and made the halftime score, 19-7.
Pesek finished the night with 99 yards rushing on 18 carries and the lone touchdown. Junior quarterback Joe Gill (Munster, Ind./Western Illinois University/Munster) completed 28 of his 59 pass attempts for 301 yards and the two early interceptions. Junior kicker Spencer Nolen (Columbia, Tenn./UT-Chattanooga/Columbia Central) provided the rest of Saint Xavier's points with two, third-quarter field goals, one from 23 yards out and the other from 22. Junior linebacker Dave Marciano (Chicago, Ill./Eastern Illinois/St. Rita) led the Cougar defense with 13 total tackles (six solos), a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
USF marched 82 yards down the field on the game's opening drive and went ahead 7-0 on a nine-yard run off a keeper by junior quarterback Josh Miller. An interception at midfield by junior linebacker Devon Rush was returned inside the SXU 10-yard line, but the Cougar defense came through big stopping Saint Francis (Ind.) on a fourth-and-goal attempt at the one-yard line. The Saint Xavier offense moved the ball well on its next drive getting all the way down to the USF 10-yard line before a pick in the end zone ended the potential scoring opportunity.
Saint Francis (Ind.) took full advantage of the turnover scoring on an eight-play drive capped by a five-yard run by sophomore running back Antoin Campbell. Marciano blocked the resulting extra-point attempt giving USF a 13-0 lead with 12:14 left in the first half. SXU had its next drive stalled on downs at the USF 38-yard line and Saint Francis capitalized again offensively scoring 11 plays later on a three-yard run by junior tight end Kevin Bush. However, USF missed the extra-point attempt giving them a 19-0 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. The Cougars did not quit and Pesek got his team on the board when he broke free for an 18-yard scoring run that capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
On Saint Xavier's second offensive drive of the second half, the Cougars got down to the USF six-yard line, but had to settle for a field goal by Nolen with 4:40 left in the third quarter. A huge interception by senior linebacker Mike Bushnell (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) gave SXU the ball right back deep in Saint Francis (Ind.) territory, but Saint Xavier could not find the end zone again and made it 19-13 on the 22-yard field goal by Nolen. Using a 13-play, 84-yard drive on its next possession, USF capped the game's scoring early in the fourth quarter when junior quarterback David Yoder found senior tight end Clayton Smith open for a 23-yard touchdown strike. Saint Francis missed another extra-point attempt to make it, 25-13, with just under 12 minutes to play. SXU had chances to rally, but a fumble and a turnover on downs ended its final two drives.
Saint Xavier (4-1 overall/0-1 MSFA) takes next weekend off for its bye week and returns to action on Saturday, October 13, with a road game against MSFA Mideast League foe Siena Heights University (Mich.). The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. (eastern) start in Adrian, Mich.